Domaine Gérard Duplessis is a family run cellar founded in 1895, today managed by Lilian Duplessis. Located in the heart of the Chablis’s region it has 9 ha divided on 8 different appellations. Every vineyard is worked in accordance to organic farming since 2007 and achieved certification in 2013 hence all the wines now from then are labelled as such. In fact he now farms biodynamically. All vineyards used for village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru wines are Kimmeridgian limestone, with the Petit Chablis on Portlandian limestone, making the village Chablis a seriously good village style. As mentioned above the domaine is Certified organic, quite the achievement in such a marginal climate as Chablis.
Lilian speaks only a little English so partnered with my school yard French tastings in his cellar over the years have been an amusing mixture of arm waving and google translate. I was extremely grateful when in 2019 Isabelle Champagnon joined the Domaine to support Lillian. She’d been previously working with William Fevre and so was extremely helpful in helping me get across to Lillian that Australia’s thirst for his wines was unabated and can I have more bottles. More importantly it helped me understand why these wines are so bloody good.
Owning such superb old vineyards (now organically farmed) is one of the key’s to the quality of wines produced by the Domaine, particularly in the ever warming climate of Chablis. What was interesting when tasting Domaine Gerard Duplessis’s wines in 2019 was despite these warmer conditions how wonderful the 2018 wines were. I was confused about how fresh, tight and precise they felt. Lilian explained that when you have the benefit of old vines their ‘experience’ as he put it helps to negate the warmer weather, they are not so easily influenced by these factors. With some plots up to 80 years old with even his Petit Chablis a vine average of 30 years old it’s evident in the wines.
His philosophy for working in harmony with the earth translates to how he works in the cellar: native yeast fermentations, fermentation with lees in stainless steel tank followed by a 12 to 18 month (depending on the classification & vintage) elévage in oak barrels (10% new) before being bottled with a minimal addition of sulfur. The Petit and Village Chablis see only cuve (vat) however minimum on 6 months on full lees post malo before bottling.
Tasting 2018’s & 2017’s at the Domaine – July 2019 – Neil – Francaboutwine
“Tasting these wines (2018, 2017’s) in July 2019 in Chablis I recall the relief of being invited down to the cellar to escape the sun. The week before I’d been in Carpentras in the Provence Alps not far from Cairanne where while in the market with guests France recorded it’s hottest day ever in that village, not the best time to go food shopping for our cheese for that night….Suffice to say 2019, like 2018 saw a warmer vintage in Burgundy & the Rhone.
Tasting across Chablis there is no doubt you see the 2018 warmer vintage conditions in the wines but moreover I think I pre-conceptions of Chablis are being challenged. With a warming climate coupled with the new guard of Chablis using less sulphur the ‘reductive/match stick/tight wound’ notes we so often associate with this region are perhaps dissipating… Is that Chardonnay I note in my glass” was my inner smile tasting 2018 Chablis.
What was equally interesting when tasting Domaine Gerard Duplessis’s wines this year was despite these warmer conditions how wonderful the 2018 wines were. I was confused about how fresh, tight and precise they felt. Lilian explained that when you have the benefit of old vines their ‘experience’ as he put it helps to negate the warmer weather, they are not so easily influenced by these factors. With some plots up to 80 years old with even his Petit Chablis a vine average of 30 years old it’s evident in the wines.
The exciting part of the 2018 1er Cru releases is that for Vaillons and Montmains in particular which will arrive in March 2021 we have almost double the qty we have had available from 2015, 2016 and 2017”
Snapshot of thoughts from Neal Martin on 2018 vintage in Chablis
The warm, dry summer of 2018 benefited growers in terms of quantity, answering many winemakers’ prayers after the frost, hail and rot-affected vintages of recent years. It produced a raft of what you might call “pretty Chardonnay” instead of “spine-tinglingly brilliant Chablis.” Chablis can be one or the other but rarely accommodates both. In 2018, the growing season dictated that growers make seductive Chardonnay wine in lieu of wine that translates the nuances of its unique terroir, at the expense of the typicité that distinguishes Chablis from any other wine region.
The 2017 vintage and, judging by my initial tastings, also the 2019s, are likely to offer longer-lived Chablis upon which Nature confers greater typicité. In the long term, I must admit to being concerned by the effects of global warming, which is robbing the region of the less heat-intensive summers, longer hang times and, crucially, cool nights that lock in the spine of acidity that lends Chablis its nerve and tension.